‘South Park’ Censored in China

South Park isn’t known for restraint. Over 23 seasons, they have attacked numerous celebrities. The show’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have used South Park to attack what they see as the injustices of the world. Here is what happened when the world – specifically the Chinese government – fights back. See how Winnie the Pooh, John Oliver, and the N.B.A. factor into the controversy.

Kenny and Cartman from South Park | Anthony Harvey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

The ‘South Park’ – China fiasco

In a recent South Park episode titled “Band in China,” Randy Marsh goes to China, where he is arrested for marijuana possession. He is put into a forced-labor camp where he meets Winnie the Pooh. In real life, Pooh has been censored from the Chinese internet after the bear’s appearance was compared to that of President Xi Jinping.

The rest of the episode revolves around Cartman and the gang forming a band. Hollywood decides to create a biopic of the group, but they want to censor the group’s life story so that the film will be allowed into the Chinese market. The boys eventually get tired of the ordeal, proclaiming that it is cowardly for anyone to censor their art so that they can find success in China.

Elton John, Kenny, Stan, Kyle, and Cartman on South Park | by Getty Images

This storyline references an ongoing trend in China where the country’s government targets American media featuring Winnie the Pooh. Christopher Robin, a live-action Disney film centering on the bear and his friends, was denied release in China in 2018. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ban could have been motivated by President Jinping’s distaste for the bear, but it may have also been motivated by economic considerations.

Rabbit, Tigger, Eeyore, and Winnie the Pooh | Alberto E. Rodriguez / Staff

At the time of Christopher Robin‘s release, several Hollywood tent-poles had already been released in China and the government might have been weary of flooding the market. An episode of John Oliver’s popular show Last Week Tonight that included discussion of Jinping’s connection to Winnie the Pooh was censored from China’s internet the same year. 

‘South Park’ responds to China

The New York Times reported that the Communist Party of China responded to South Park‘s satire of censorship with more censorship. All clips of the show and online discussions of it have been wiped clean from the Chinese internet. Any searches for South Park on the popular Chinese website Baidu Tieba lead to this message: “According to the relevant law and regulation, this section is temporarily not open.”

Stone and Parker responded to this news with a satirical statement, saying “Like the N.B.A., we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all.”

Daryl Morey in China | Visual China Group via Getty Images

Their reference to the N.B.A. poked fun at the controversy surrounding the Hong Kong protests against China’s government. In recent months, Daryl Morey, the manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted his support of the Hong Kong protests. Although the NBA has been supportive of political expression in the past, they realized that Morey’s comments could jeopardize their standing in China and disavowed his tweet.